09 October 2013

Apologies Only Go So Far II

Scott Sorenson, Ancestry.com's Chief Technology Officer, has written another blog post. It was posted late Monday afternoon just as a new wave of complaints were posted to the Ancestry.com Facebook page. Oh the irony!
The one thing that stood out for me in Scott's most recent post was, "...we can’t shut the site down while we make these fundamental changes." You can't or you won't? What is wrong with sending an email to all members a month before saying, "Starting on X date our website will be down for X number of days/weeks while we do some necessary upgrades to our system. Subscribers will have their accounts extended by the same number of days/weeks."? ALE subscribers could be sent placards to display to inform their users. The marketing modal for the month prior to the shutdown could tell users of the plan. Or maybe Ancestry just prefers to inconvenience us for months while taking our money and doesn't care if we get fed up and cancel. Of course I could be the only one that would prefer a temporary shutdown. What do you think? Please take the poll that is on the right side of the page.
UPDATE: The poll is now closed. 87% of respondents preferred a complete shutdown, with prior notice, over the constant slowdowns and outages with no warning.
The comments for Scott's blog post are an interesting read too. My favorite is from Karen. [Full disclosure: Karen is a friend of mine but we did not discuss the post before she commented on it.]
It's hard to feel sorry for the issues facing Ancestry.com as most of them are self-inflicted and ultimately lay on the shoulders of the man who has remained remarkably quiet in recent months. That man is -Tim Sullivan-CEO.
-out of date/unstable infrastructure
-marketing beyond infrastructure capabilities
-advertising that misleads the customer as to ease of use of product or over exaggerates results (DNA)
-poor training of customer service personnel
-poor utilization of customer contact channels
-release of products before major bugs worked out (FTM 2014)
-failure to provide 24 hour customer service for a world wide 24 hour business
-spelling, grammar, syntax, and flat out factual errors on company website, blogs, Facebook pages, support pages, advertising e-mails
-failure to provide timely, open and honest communication with subscriber base
There are issues across technology, marketing, product and customer service. The one person in common for all those departments is Tim Sullivan. Despite that he chooses to publicly let department heads and front line customer service personnel take the heat from the upset customers.

We are told he is hearing us but why won’t he speak to us? Why is Tim Sullivan refusing to address the issues plaguing his company with the subscriber base that provides 100% of his company’s revenues?
 After the jump: What YOU can do

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Here are a few things you can do to make your voice heard:

1. Cancel your subscription.
Whether you cancel by phone or online you will be asked for a reason. Have your list ready. If you happen to get someone on the phone who has had a lot of cancellations that day they may skip that question. Don't hang up without letting them know how long you've been subscribing and why you won't be renewing.
Please also remember to be polite. The outages and slowdowns are not the fault of the person at the other end of the phone. They are probably at a phone bank somewhere in Kentucky. If you've had poor customer service from Ancestry in the past it most likely wasn't from the person you are talking to now. 
Whether you cancel by phone or online you should receive a confirmation email. The email will include the confirmation number and the date your subscription expires. If you just renewed your subscription it may expire five months from now. All kinds of computer errors could happen between now and then so be sure to keep the confirmation email.

2. Write or call Ancestry.com headquarters.
Ancestry.com Inc. Corporate Headquarters
360 West 4800 North
Provo, UT 84604
Ph 801-705-7000
Fx 801-705-7001
You'll find contact information for their offices around the world here. You can address your letter to Tim Sullivan or to another member of the management team depending on the focus of your complaint/concerns.
Personally I find writing a letter is best. You can say everything you want to say, the way you want to say it, without getting cut off or distracted. Your first hand experience is the best thing to write about but you might also find the links at the end of this post helpful. They may give you some supporting data or spark ideas for the focus of your letter.
One quick note about Monday's post: NF is no longer listed as an admin on the Ancestry.com Facebook page. Just in case anyone was thinking about writing to Ancestry about her specifically.

3. Apply for a job.
If you have the skills Ancestry.com is currently lacking check their career opportunities. There are positions available all over the world. I would be thrilled to hear that someone who actually uses the site was offered a job at Ancestry.

If anyone has other ideas please comment. Thanks!

PREVIOUS POST: Apologies Only Go So Far
NEXT POST: Scottish Lass
Tim Sullivan's Compensation (2011)
Genealogy Market Insights From Recent Ancestry S-4 Filing (July 2013)
Ancestry.com's SEC Filings (through 17 Sep 2013)
Apologies Only Go So Far
Social Disgrace Series
DNA: False Advertising?

1 comment:

  1. I thought about voting in your poll, but my choice would depend on the length of the outage - 2 days should be the maximum for a full shutdown, even with a long warning period. Not sure that everything could be "fixed" in that short a timeframe, even with a lot of programming off-line. But the current method of making changes "on the fly" is mainly adding "enhancements" and not addressing needed fixes. Maybe scheduling regular 1-2 hour shutdowns spaced over a longer period would be an alternative - as long as the real problems were actually being addressed and communicated. And the customer service issues don't need downtime to fix.
    I am recurring Ancestry subscriber, taking a 1- or 6-month subscription, and then going several months without full access. (My searches during hiatuses are saved to Zotero for later follow-up). 2012 was unusual for me, with a full 12 months of subscription, mainly due the loss of the 3-month subscription option and the 1940 census release. My last 1-month subscription providentially ended Aug 30.